Summertime a Learning Time
Dr. Lorraine McCune
often bemoan the loss of learning in their students over the two-month
summer break in the school year. Indeed, children do forget some
facts and learning strategies and may take a few weeks in the
fall to bounce back into classroom routines. One way to keep kids
in a learning mode during the summer break is to give play center
stage, something that should be an intimate part of school life
in the early years.
For parents planning for summer, I suggest structured activities
such as arts workshops and camps. These provide for adventurous
learning with more opportunities for self-expression and recreational
skill development than the school year usually can offer. But
unstructured time—allowing for the natural flow from boredom to
activities invented by children themselves or suggested by parents—provides
special learning opportunities. Keeping materials, such as safe
scissors, glue, washable paints and markers and paper, accessible
allows for these sorts of spontaneous projects.
One colleague, a child psychologist, suggests providing children
with a section of the family garden or a few pots on a patio or
windowsill. If space permits, raising cherry tomatoes, which ripen
fast and are small enough to be plucked and served by the child,
is a particularly apt choice. Talk with them about the process
of growing things and read them books with garden themes. These
activities can enrich a child’s sensitivity to the pleasure of
the outdoors as they learn.
Playing games with adults offers children a context for informal
conversation as well as learning. Games, such as chess, that parents
have never learned, can be learned along with their children.
I find backgammon with my eleven-year-old to be a great challenge.
Playing Memory with children ages three and up, Scrabble or Scrabble
Junior, Monopoly (provided you start early in the day!), and my
all time favorite, Sorry! are all options to explore.
Also, when you’re at the beach, don’t forget to spend some time
writing messages and names in the sand. #
McCune is an associate professor at the Rutgers University Graduate
School of Education and serves as advisor to educational toy company,
General Creation. She can be reached at www.generalcreation.com
in the “Ask Dr. McCune” section.
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